I recently caught the ‘Stare of the Dog’ pleading for a local walk involving water and other canine interests. You can tell a lot from a facial expression if you are as attuned to it as I. This walk is not a new experience for Dudley, more of an old haunt and so with a short car journey done, the fun began. And yes, that car journey, as always, began with him being bundled into the back of it like a side of beef.
A perfectly good car park right at the water’s edge serves dog owners on this walk well but I am far too mean to pay and display. Instead I favour a short walk back up the road where it is free. What I save in money I almost certainly lose in ‘grace’ however as Dudley insists on dragging me through every available hazard and obstacle he can find on his explosive charge back down to the river.
It didn’t take him long today to wreak havoc either. Fresh off the lead, and despite there being a good hour’s walk ahead of him, his first thought was to unload a hefty turd right at the head of the bridge we needed to cross. Had the German army deployed such tactics across Europe instead of relying on dynamite things might have turned out very differently as nobody was keen to cross this particular obstacle let me tell you.
With the mess bagged and binned, we small band of brothers set off apace, Dudley intent on entering the River Mersey and I keen to get as far away as possible from the bridge. As the river-bank falls sharply away from the path, the first you know of Dudley’s whereabouts is the sight of ripples spreading at the waters edge followed closely by a brown seal like figure emerging none too subtly. This particular embarkation from the hound was encouraged by the presence of a brace of ducks he’d spotted loitering at the base of the bank. With the grace of a gas bill and the stealth of a household appliance, he was in and giving chase. To his credit, he’s a fine swimmer as Labradors tend to be but is no match for a duck. Safe in the knowledge they can always take off if needs be, the two mallards headed upstream gracefully, keeping a sensible distance from Dudley like two elder siblings grudgingly entrusted with the care of a much younger and more annoying brother who by now was following noisily behind.
After abandoning his water borne pursuit of the ducks, Dudley’s attentions turned to a large piece of driftwood and he lost no time attempting to haul it ashore with great industry and commendable effort. Even if it wasn’t trapped below the water line, it was always going to be far too big to ever be successfully landed, yet like Hemmingway’s old man, he was sure going to try. The sound of other dogs roused the brute from this epic battle and before I knew it he was off up the path to meet a variety of woofers. Fortunately, all canines emerged unscathed after a short bum sniffing session and with only trace elements of unidentified dog drool covering his coat, we headed for the last leg of our walk.
Dudley’s usual trick along this stretch is to abandon me, climb over the river bank and make for the shoreline of the adjacent Water Park where he can be seen and heard harassing fishermen and ambushing dog haters out for their weekend stroll. I, by stark contrast prefer to move at a more sedate pace that allows me to take in the seasonal landscapes of the river bank and occasionally, the flight of a Kingfisher. Tradition dictates that at this point, I whistle several times into thin air calling out Dudley’s name in a bid to become ‘Youtube’s’ next sensation after ‘Fenton’ whilst he flatly ignores me. Today was no different so I set off up the embankment in purposeful strides hoping to catch a glimpse of my unruly four-legged companion from my high vantage point. His arrival at my feet was announced ahead of time by cries of ‘look out’ and ‘I think your dog is here’ followed by heavy panting sounds as he rounded the corner and charged up to greet me. As always, I am relieved to see him alone and not weighed down by the treasured chattels of an irate fisherman.
With the Mersey beaten, our walk ended at the excellent and extremely dog-friendly Jackson’s Boat pub just aside the bank of the great river with a good pint of ale. Or at least mine did. Dudley had to settle for a ‘Denti Stick’ from their wide range of dog treats.